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Monday, August 31, 2015

CALIFORNIA - Our Highway 395 Road Trip Moves Into the Cold Country

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Although the area seems relatively flat, the snow and trees give a clue. Just a few miles after leaving Mammoth, highway 395 hits the altimeter at 8,036 feet at Deadman Summit.
An exit leads to June Lake Loop, a back country of lakes, campgrounds, and the June Lake ski area, also owned and operated by the same folks back in Mammoth. We’ve yet to try it out but I’m told if you don’t like the crowds at Mammoth, June Lake makes a great alternative.



Coming down the other side of the summit a very large lake looms in the distance. This is Mono Lake, a brackish, fragile eco-system full of alien looking towers called tufa. 
As L.A. took all the water in this area, they also diverted the streams feeding the lake which has no outlet.  Mono Lake shrunk to the point where islands that supported nesting birds became peninsulas giving predators a bridge to the tasty birds.
Many court battles later, the streams are no longer being diverted and Mono Lake is making its comeback.


The tiny town of Lee Vining sits to the west of the lake, a nice rest stop along the highway.  Closer to the lake, fans of Clint Eastwood movies might recognize the area of the town he had painted red in High Plains Drifter.

At the south end of town, highway 120 begins its westward trek toward Yosemite National Park. Better known as Tioga Pass, this road is blocked by snow and rubble for much of the year. It’s only in the warmer summer season and into fall that you can actually drive that route.


Just north of town, you can pull off to see the crazy tufa formations at the Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve.
Past Lee Vining, we’re climbing again. This time to the 8,138 foot height of Conway Summit, the highest elevation along 395.  Coming down from the summit, if you’re here in the peak of summer,you might want to take the detour to Bodie, one of the best preserved ghost towns in the country, a few miles to the east. Now, in the winter, the high country road is closed.

The next big town we come into is Bridgeport, a very pretty little high country town in a valley alongside the Bridgeport reservoir.  I’d been coming here for years…all in the winter…before I realized there was a lake here.  Mostly, I’ve seen the town under a deep blanket of snow where the gas prices will take your breath away.

It gets so cold up here that the Marines maintains their cold weather and mountain training facility to the west of town.  This is not the California of beaches and palm trees you see on the post cards.
Past Bridgeport, we become partners with the Walker River adjacent to the road.  The canyon narrows as we get closer to the state border, a lonely spot with the requisite small casino, Topaz Lake. The Best Western here actually looks like it’d be a great place for a get-away-from-it-all weekend.


After crossing into Nevada, we stop in Gardnerville to have dinner at the Overland Hotel. It’s a creaky old place with a bar and a dining room serving Basque fare.
Being seated, we are given a small carafe of wine, salad, soup, beans, and spaghetti before we’re even asked what we want for an entrée.  We get our steak and fish next, along with some great fries before having a little ice cream for dessert. All very good and filling.
Well fed, we head out back to our car where we join a short Frisbee toss with the kids living behind the hotel. It’s a short drive to our next overnight stop, Carson City, the capitol of the state where we’ll spend the night with owls, deer, and bullfrogs on an alfalfa farm.
-Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Caipirinha

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
David Catania under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

And now for something completely different...


This week we're trying a new cocktail, one I've never mixed before and, until recently, never even heard of.  The caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil.  It's similar to a daiquiri, but uses cachaca...which we know better as aguardient...instead of rum.  It's also similar to a mojito in that you muddle some ingredients, but uses lime instead of mint.  Think of it as the offspring of a daiquiri and a mojito if you will.

It's very tasty and refreshing with a slight licorice taste to it.  Also, it's low in calories at around 145 calories per drink.

INGREDIENTS

4 small limes
Juice of one medium lime
1 1/2 oz. aguardiente
1 tbsp. sugar or 1 oz. simple syrup

Cut the small limes in quarters and put into cocktail shaker.  Add sugar (or simple syrup) and muddle (squash with a muddler). Add ice, lime juice, and aguardiente.  Shake and strain into cockail glass.




Cheers!

-Darryl

Friday, August 28, 2015

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Highway 395 Kicks it Into High Gear - The Northern Owens Valley



It's been 275 miles on the road, probably time to think about somewhere to lay our head. That would be the heart and soul of the Owens Valley, Bishop, California.


With a population of just under 4,000, Bishop is the big city of Owens Valley. It's here that you'll find the major services...stores, hospital, casino, fairgrounds, and lodging. You can get clean, comfortable rooms starting at around $60 at the peak season of summer, up to the $140 dollar rooms at the Best Western Creekside Inn, the prettiest and most expensive place in town.



It's your choice but we'll not spend too much here...Bishop is unpretentious and uncomplicated. We'll keep it simple and cheap.

In Bishop, travelers stock up for the trip ahead. Sporting good stores cater to fishermen and hunters who flock to the local lakes and forests. It's said that you can walk across Crowley Lake, just north of town, by stepping from boat to boat on opening day of trout season. Campers get groceries and road trippers top off the tanks and drain the bladders for the road ahead.


While many just stop for a minute and continue on, Bishop rewards those who linger a little longer.  




Schatz Bakery is the busiest place in town where you can get varieties of bread and baked goods that range from mediocre to delicious. Grab a lunch to go and cross the street to the pretty city park where you can picnic on the banks of the creek, watching ducklings trying to keep up with mom.


You can get cheap gas and gamble for awhile at the Indian casino at the north end of town.


As we leave Bishop on highway 395, we also say goodbye to the Owens Valley.  42 miles north, although it seems much closer, we come the next big attraction...and I mean BIG.


Local DWP hydrographer Dave McCoy set up a number of rope tows to facilitate his love of skiing in the winter. In 1942, he finally found a good, snowy spot and persuaded the forest service to give him a permit to open a ski area. Mammoth Mountain was born.




The name is apt, the mountain is huge and easily accommodates the thousands of skiers and snowboarders that crowd the town of Mammoth Lakes on winter weekends.




Snow can come down hard here...it's not uncommon to drive the streets of this town in winter with walls of snow ten feet high on either side.


Skiing ranges from the easy bunny slopes to the truly scary and expert slopes of the 11,000 foot cornice.


It's not cheap to ski here.  As of this writing, an adult full day lift ticket is $89.  Rooms average around $200 a night in season, although we once found a small basement room for around $90. The closer to the lifts, the more expensive they get...easily topping $500 a night for a room next to a lift.


For that price, you will get one of the world's great skiing experiences. Mammoth also operates an adaptive ski program run by Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra that runs around $150 for a full day of skiing and instruction, click on that link for more information.

Back on 395, heading north, we leave all traces of desert behind as we travel through the snowy Alpine forests of the Sierra, Mammoth, and June Lake.  Where we're going is not the sunny California that everybody is thinking of.


We'll be swinging through the Siberia of the west coast in the next leg of this trip.


-Darryl
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

ADVENTURES CLOSE TO HOME: In Search of the Mythical Good, Cheap, Steak Dinner


Went to a restaurant not so long ago and the steak entree's were well north of $50. While I admit, there are places where you get every penny's worth at those prices, a lot of times I just don't want to take the gamble.

A little while back, I saw an article looking for the best dollar slice of pizza in New York. With that inspiration, we're looking for the best steak dinner in our little area of Southern California (San Gabriel Valley/Pasadena area) for under $15.



For most people, Sizzler would be their first bet. Just a couple of their steaks come in under $15 and I am completely underwhelmed by their blandness. One side is included but if you want to take advantage of the one thing that really stands out at Sizzler, their soup, salad, and dessert bar, you're going to add $5 to that price and take it beyond our limit.



My friend Rudy Castrellon runs Rudy's Mexican Restaurant in Monrovia with lot's of good food under our limit but his ribeye steak dinner (called carne asada steak on the menu) is a generous cut of very good ribeye. Since it's a Mexican restaurant, it's served with rice, beans, and guacamole instead of potatoes but you can ask them to substitute potatoes for the beans. At $14.50, this delicious steak is a grand bargain. Oh, and it's also the home of one of the Top Three Margaritas in Southern California.



During my childhood, my parents would take us to a local chain called Steak Corral now and again. A western themed, budget steak house, I remember them being pretty good and looking forward to our visits. Recently, I found there was a lone survivor down in Whittier so my wife and I went to try it. The prices are very low...ribeye is $12.95...and you get a salad, cheese bread, and your choice of potato to go with it. The cheese bread was very good, can't say anywhere near the same for anything else but they do have an extensive condiment bar to add some taste to the lifeless slab of cow on your plate.



Speaking of cowboy themes, Steer 'n Ale...hard by the Rosemead Boulevard South exit of the 210 Freeway...looks like it could have been pulled directly out of Knott's Berry Farm. Come on a Tuesday and you can get their New York steak dinner with soup or salad, cheese bread, choice of potato, and dessert for $11.95. While they did go downhill for awhile with new owners, a new manager has brought the place back up to snuff and you get a very good cut of meat brought out sizzling on an extremely hot metal plate (the server really means it when she tells you the plate is hot, let it cool a few minutes first). Very good meal at an excellent price.



At the Monrovian in Monrovia (across the street from Rudy's, above), you'll be fine if you realize it's a spiffed up Greek diner and not a fancy dinner house. While most things on the menu are satisfactory, there are a few dishes that they excel in...anything Greek, their chicken fried steak, chile verde, and salmon for example. Come on Friday night for their prime rib dinner at $14.95 and you'll get a very juicy and tender slab along with a very good salad, potato, dinner roll, and dessert.

So, which are the best? First, let's eliminate two. Sizzler and Steak Corral. Love the atmosphere of Steak Corral but, let's face it, the namesake entree leaves a lot to be desired.

The remaining three are awfully close to each other in quality.

The Monrovian's prime rib is darn good and it's complete salad-to-dessert. Small substitutions are allowed (like veggies instead of potato) and you can take the dessert to go, if you wish.

Steer 'n Ale is also complete through dessert and is the cheapest of the three best at $11.95. Like Monrovian's prime rib, however, it's only available one night per week.

Rudy will serve you his outstanding ribeye anytime you want and the tasty beans and guacamole give it another leg up, as does one of their great margaritas on the side, so I'll give a slight edge to his version over the other two but you will not go wrong at any of the top three.

There are also several restaurants that take their steaks to an even higher plane for just a few dollars more. We'll cover them in a future post.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 24, 2015

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Highway 395 Kicks it Into High Gear - The Historic and Beautiful Southern Owens Valley



Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.” – Noah Cross (John Huston) in Chinatown (1974).

It helps to know the importance of Owens Valley when you travel to it. What was rich farmland in the beginning of the 20th century became the main water source for the city of Los Angeles a couple of decades later. The thirsty city to the south drained much of the water that was here, turning much of it into desert. The Owens River ran dry which turned Owens Lake at the south end of the valley into an alkali flat.


Through much litigation and struggle, the city is slowing returning some of the water but it will never be the same in our lifetime.  Even so, this is one of the most ruggedly beautiful and historic areas in the state. The geography runs from  the highest point in the lower 48 to the lowest point in the entire country.

Coming up from the desert below on highway 395, you pass up some impressive lava formations at the Coso Mountains, on the east side of the highway past Pearsonville on up to Little Lake.

There is a beautiful little lake at the tiny town of Little Lake, marking your entrance into the southern end of the valley.  We’ll be here for another 140 or so miles before we exit via the northern end.

I like to divide the valley into two parts…the southern half and the northern half. Today, we’ll tackle the southern end.

The next town of any size along the highway will be Lone Pine.  This pretty little town sits between those two points of extreme, Mt. Whitney and Death Valley. Just to the west of town, amidst a collection of spires, sits the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States at 14,497 feet.



From the middle of town, you can drive up Whitney Portal Road quite a ways up the side of the mountain to the trailhead where hearty hikers can go the rest of the way.  We like the large waterfall here where on warmer days you can have a nice picnic. In the winter, if you can get up here, the waterfall is a spectacular frozen column of ice.


On the way back to town, you’ll see some familiar looking rock formations to the north of the road. These are the Alabama Hills and the recreation area is great to roam around, scramble on the rocks, and even have a picnic. Many, many movies, TV shows, and commercials have been filmed here which is why they look so familiar. You can download a map from the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce to see where some of the more famous movie locations are.


It’s about 85 miles southwest from the nearly 15,000 foot peak of Mt. Whitney to the Badwater in Death Valley. At 282 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest point in the United States.  You can go back to Owens Lake and take highway 190 over to this spectacular national park but, for us, that’s a trip for another day.

After a slice of pizza and a sandwich at the Pizza Factory in town, it’s back on the road. Just north of Lone Pine on the east side of the road you’ll see a small hill with a wooden fence, a monument, and a historical marker (no. 507) sign.

Sixteen bodies lay under the dirt here in a mass grave, the result of a massive earthquake in 1872. About 80 structures stood in town, mostly made of adobe which crumbled readily during the shaking. Only 20 structures were left standing and 27 people were left dead. Those that weren’t buried in their own services were interred here.


Seven miles north of town lies another melancholy site. Manzanar National Historic Site covers the area that was the Manzanar Relocation Center. During World War II, 10,000 people of Japanese descent were rounded up and put here for the duration of the war.


Manzanar in 1942


The camp was closed and mostly dismantled in 1945. For years, it was left alone out here in the bottom of the valley. We’d stop in and have the 550 acres to ourselves to explore. In 1985, forty years after it was shut down, it was declared a National Historic Site.


Manzanar today


Today, you can still explore the grounds, see the foundations of the barracks, see the couple of remaining structures like the gymnasium and the guardhouse, and visit the accessible interpretive center.


Continuing north, we come into the county seat of Inyo County, the town of Independence. Be sure to make a stop to see the old courthouse in the center of town. It was here, a group of vagrants were brought for hearings after being arrested in a remote area of Death Valley. One of them was named Charles Manson, who would eventually be taken to Los Angeles for the murder trial he is infamous for.

On the drive north, it takes little reminding to enjoy the view. The mountain ranges on either side…the steep, abrupt eastern escarpment of the Sierras and the gentler slopes of the White Mountains on the right…both rise over 14,000 feet. In the winter the view doesn’t get any better.

Passing out of Independence, we continue on this classic and legendary highway heading toward the northern half of the stark, barren, and exceptionally stunning Owens Valley.

-Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 23, 2015

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Red Solo Cup



Finally...a drink for the rest of us.



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In honor of Toby Keith and his song, here's a concoction guaranteed to impress, easy and cheap to make...the Red Solo Cup!  Here's the recipe, don't go overboard on high quality ingredients...the supermarket generic stuff will do:


INGREDIENTS


3 oz. white rum
1 oz. amaretto
3-4 oz. cranberry cocktail
Juice of 1 lime
splash of grenadine


Take rum, amaretto, lime juice, and cranberry cocktail and put in a shaker half full of ice. Shake well, pour into two red solo cups...not blue, not yellow...filled with ice. Float the grenadine on top.


Cheers!





Darryl

Friday, August 21, 2015

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: A High Desert Drive up Highway 395

While the world rhapsodizes about the mother road, Route 66, many old time state residents also remember another road...Highway 395.


We’re working our way up this old road but we’ve yet to actually put the rubber on that road. After some time exploring the area between the L.A. Basin and the desert in the mountains of the Cajon Pass, it’s back on Interstate 15…395’s replacement here…to finish the climb to the desert.

That’s right…climb.   Southern California has two distinct deserts going informally by the low desert and the high desert.  The low is an extension of the Sonoran desert and truly does get low…way below sea level near the Salton Sea. The high desert is the Mojave desert and averages around 3,000 feet in elevation. It can get bone-chillingly cold here in winter and regularly gets dusted with snow. As we exit the Cajon Pass , we’re at just under 3,200 feet.




Just before civilization, the sign of the Outpost Café tells us we’ve finally found the road. Highway 395 cuts a line due north from this junction, bypassing the towns of Hesperia and Victorville.  When real estate prices were booming, thousands of families came up here to escape the high prices down below. A large portion of them commute hours each way to jobs in Los Angeles and beyond.


Adelanto is the first town along this road. Home of historic George Air Force base (now a civilian airport) it’s not too far to the west where space shuttles would occasionally land on the dry lake at Edwards Air Force base when Florida weather was bad.  You’ll pass the stadium for the minor league High Desert Maverick’s baseball team as you head out of town.

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As we leave Adelanto, we also say goodbye to the last remnants of Los Angeles’ suburbs. We are truly beyond civilization now.
After driving several miles, the next spot that can be called civilization is Kramer Junction where 395 intersects with highway 58 connected Barstow to the east with Bakersfield to the west. You can stop here for expensive gas and a snack but we’ re just moving on.


The old mining town of Johannesburg is a photographer’s delight with all the rusting mine equipment strewn about. Just beyond that, the huge China Lake Naval Weapons facility supports the town of Ridgecrest. It’s not uncommon to see military planes taking target practice to the right of the road as you pass through.
Someone had to have been sick of traveling through this large desert to found the next little spot on the road called Dunmovin.  It, and the other town nearby, Pearsonville, mark the end of the desert drive for us. Now it’s a climb up the hill to Olanch, Little Lake and the start of the next part of our 395 adventure, the historic and very important Owens Valley.

That's the next big stop on this road trip.

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-Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 17, 2015

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Cajon Pass and Searching for a Legendary Road






This is shaky country. The mountains on either side are there because one of the earth’s great faults passes through the neighborhood. Fires regularly scorch its sides, traffic jams it roads, and the majority of L.A.’s rail freight passes through it.





Cajon Pass threads its way through sparsely populated gap separating the San Gabriel Mountains to the west and the San Bernardino Mountains to the east. The modern superhighway, Interstate 15, channels tens of thousands of cars through here every day of the year. Multiple sets of rails carry a few thousand more rail cars towards the massive rail yard in Colton, destined for the warehouses of Southern California. At the bottom of the canyon, a not-old-looking four lane blacktop sits unused.
While the world rhapsodizes about the mother road, Route 66…that road in the bottom of the canyon...many old time state residents also remember the other number assigned to that road.  Highway 395.
Formerly stretching from border to border, the stretch here heading south has been replaced by the interstate.  It is just as legendary as the Mother Road but in a more understated manner.
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It’s not a long drive through the pass…much shorter than the other big pass to the west, Tejon Pass (also called The Grapevine), and when traffic’s running smooth, it’ll only take you around 20 to 30 minutes to make the passage from Devore to Hesperia.
In between those two points is another world that most locals never see.
The intersection of Interstate 15 and state highway 138 is the midpoint of the pass and your portal to the land time forgot.  Head east and you’ll be headed towards the manmade Lake Silverwood.  Beyond that, the windy, climbing highway heads up the mountains to Crestline, Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs and Big Bear in the distance.
Boaters and fishermen love Silverwood.  Crestline is a small, quiet little community popular with hang gliders who launch off of a point west of town. Lake Arrowhead has a nice little village but the lake itself is private and reserved for residents only. Running Springs and Big Bear are popular snow skiing areas and Big Bear Lake is another lure for boaters and fishermen.
While we do have some good times in this eastern portion…Tim goes to camp each year in Crestline, I’ve misspent much of my youth on the slopes of Bear Mountain and Snow Valley ski areas, and we’ve rented a cabin a time or two in Big Bear…turning west on highway 138 is where I’m more likely to go.
Mormon Rocks Courtesy of Wikimedia
Photo by Takwish under CC BY-SA 2.5 License

The first thing you might notice are the rocks. Giant, red rocks tilted at strange angles to the sky.  Little caves dotting the sides, sitting there by themselves, off to the side, all pointing the same way. These are called the Mormon Rocks.
It’s an otherworldly sight. Several miles to the west of here, a collection of these rocks have been turned into a park where Hollywood has used them countless times as backdrops to commercials, TV shows, music videos, and movies from westerns to The Flintstones.  Legend has it that the infamous outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez hid here and the park, Vasquez Rocks, is named after him.


The rocks jut the way they do because the big San Andreas Fault lies just beneath, exerted its upward pressure.  Letty and I have had many picnics under this awe-inspiring view.
Turning left on highway 2 will put you on Angeles Crest Highway and soon you’ll be entering the town of Wrightwood. This cute little village straddling the line between desert and alpine offers some good eats and shopping in its little downtown.
Moving just west of town and you’ll hit Mountain High, one of the area’s biggest ski areas covering three separate mountains. 

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There’s not a lot of lodging here in Wrightwood, but there does seem to be enough for visitors who’d like to spend the night.

Jackson Lake Courtesy of Wikimedia
Rennett Stoweunder CC BY 2.0 License

If you’re inclined to keep going down the highway, a right turn on Big Pines Highway will take you to pretty little Jackson Lake, where kids have a ball bluegill fishing, and the desert down below where Devil’s Punchbowl park invites hikers and rock climbers to explore its canyon walls.
Highway 2 will take you all the way back to La Canada and Los Angeles if you have the time and the highway is open, but we’re heading back the way we came, back over to highway 138, Interstate 15, and pointing ourselves north out of the pass looking for that legendary road…
-Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 16, 2015

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Cool Caribbean


Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue...oh wait, I'm getting off track but we are doing something blue today.


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We're visiting the land of blue cocktails today with this one.  Actually, I was just playing around but this came out so good, I had to add it to the Cocktail Hour Canon.

Here's the recipe...
2 oz. coconut rum
1 oz. blue caracao
1 oz. lemon juice

In a glass full to the rim of ice, pour in the lemon juice, rum, and blue caracao...in that order. Enjoy.

Cheers!

Darryl

Friday, August 14, 2015

Big Trees, Raisins, and Baseball - Fresno and Sequoia, California


No, my eyes did not deceive me…that was a 9MM Glock semi-automatic pistol strapped to the fireman’s knee. I had to know…”why are you packing?” I asked him.

“Our police can’t go along on every call with us so the city decided to arm us,” he replied.

Welcome to Fresno.



Equal parts gritty and interesting, the city lies in the heart of the produce belt of California’s Central Valley.  It’s located along highway 99, about halfway between Bakersfield and Sacramento.

Two excellent and highly recommended accessible hotels lie in the northeast part of town next door to each other, the Springhill Suites and Homewood Suites. Both offer two-room, accessible suites with roll-in showers available. Each comes with a hot breakfast and, best of all for those beyond 100 degree days in the summer, swimming pools with disability access lifts.

Springhill will cost a bit less than Homewood. We stay at the Springhill.

This is the raisin capitol of the world, it’s also in the very heart of California’s heartland with miles of farms and ranches spreading out in all directions. The office of tourism can provide you with a fruit trail map to visit the different farms, fruit stands, ranches, and farmer’s markets of the area. If you’re here spring through fall, you’ll definitely want to try some fruit picked right off of the branch.

After a good night’s rest, it’s a little over an hour east to our next destination, Sequoia National Park. The scenery beautiful, the rivers frothing with white water, the wildlife flitting about…it’s all spectacular…but what sets this park apart from others are the legendary trees.


Big trees. Huge trees. Trunks the size of houses trees. Living before Jesus trees.

Out of the hundreds of giant trees in the park, one stands alone as the biggest of them all, old General Sherman in his own fenced off plot.


You can park in an upper lot closer to the tree or park a little lower and take a paved, accessible trail up to the grove. We park in the bottom lot.

Sequoia is not new to us. We’ve camped here dozens of times but the trees still amaze. Along the trail is what looks like a downed tree with a nine-foot thick trunk about 50 feet tall. Only it’s not a tree, it’s just a branch that broke off of the General.

The Sherman tree is massive. Just the bark alone is over a foot thick.  The truck is over 20 feet thick. The age is estimated to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old…and counting. If you could, you’d climb over 275 feet before you reached the top. By volume, it is the largest single trunk tree in the world.

It may be the star of the show, but there are many more specimens in the park that, unlike the General, you can actually go up and touch.  Some, burned out from ancient fires, you can even stand inside of.

It’s lunch in the park, then back down into the valley below.

Just west of downtown is Chukchansi Park, home of the Fresno Grizzlies. They are the AAA affiliate of the current world champions, the San Francisco Giants. Tonight, we’ll go and see them play the Las Vegas 51s, the farm team of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Before the game, a couple of colorful cars are parked across the street handing out free energy drinks. They’re parked next to the Fire Department headquarters which, of course, entices a few firefighters outside to take advantage of the free drinks.

This is when I notice how Fresno’s firefighters don’t go on calls unarmed.




On to the game itself, we score some accessible seats directly behind home plate. Misters attached to the bottom of the second deck keep things cool in the valley heat. In the outfield, some lucky group is frolicking in the pool in deep center field.


The food is good, the gift shop well stocked, the prices decent, but the beer is limited to a few bland domestics with Tecate being served as the premium brew.  You can see more information on the stadium on our Chukchansi Park Fields of Dreams review.

After a fun evening of baseball, we turn in for the night.

Going south on the 99, we have one more stop to make. As you drive along, sign after sign entices you…best cheese you’ll ever have, ice cold soda, mouthwatering cheeseburgers, fresh fruit, cold milk shakes…by the time you get to the Traver exit, you just about have no free will left and have to stop at Bravo Farms.


A little traveler’s oasis, Bravo’s claim to fame is making cheese. You can watch the cheese makers in action, and then sample the many varieties.

Outside, you can walk over to the fruit stand and sample some delicious donut peaches. Back at the store and café, have a burger followed by that cold milkshake.


Save a little time to go out back, feed the goats, shoot a little pool, and relax in their garden.

It makes for a great little stop to recharge our batteries as we head on south towards home on the 99.



-Darryl
Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved